United Nations is criticized for its use of private contractors
July 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Earlier this month, a report from the Global Policy Forum, a UN watchdog, released a report that stated the UN has increased their dependance on private security contractors (PSCs) by 73% between 2009 and 2010. The numbers are dramatic, if true: $44 million in 2009 to $76 million in 2010.
The Global Policy Forum‘s report, Dangerous Partnerships, states that this is a worrying trend due to the lack of impunity enjoyed by PSCs, as well as their repeated involvement in international scandals involving rendition, torture, and sex trafficking.
The firms named in the report are indeed controversial, particularly G4S, who is currently at the center of a maelstrom of bad PR due to their poor handling of the Olympic contracts in London. The company failed to deliver an adequate number of security guards to the event, leaving the military and police to attempt to fill in the gaps. Additionally, DynCorp is one of the other top UN contractors, and the report singles DynCorp out for their involvement in a sexual abuse scandal in Bosnia during the 90s as well as their role in operating covert rendition flights for the US. Other private security companies involved include ”Securitas, Aegis, Mission Essential Personnel and IDG Security.”
The BBC reports that Dyncorp received “contracts totalling some $3m with the UN in 2010 and Saracen was hired in Uganda to provide security services to the Monusco peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, G4S and its subsidiaries, including Armor Group, had UN contracts worth almost $3m”
The Global Policy Forum states that one central issue is that many of the companies also have close ties to the US and UK governments and are using these ties to lobby for contracts in the UN:
One aspect that has stifled real discussion is the influence two of the biggest players within the U.N., the U.K and the U.S. governments, he said, both of whom are major clients of these firms, rendering any discussion dead on arrival.
The industry, in turn, makes use of this access to their governments to secure support on bids within the U.N., which are not the most lucrative financially but lend prestige and increase the companies’ image, according to Pingeot’s research.
The cozy relationship between member states and private contractors also fuels “bunkerizations”, the report finds, as the increased use of PMSCs and their involvement in determining U.N. and national policy means that countries end up with an increasing “need” for security.
The UN has defended itself and says it will continue to use PSCs. A spokesman said the use of contractors is ‘appropriate’ and that the UN would carry out due diligence and is working to implement a policy for PSCs that would be carried out across the organizations.
Personally I don’t find this news surprising, but I’m more surprised that, according to reports, there’s been almost no dialogue about the use of PSCs by the UN prior to now. Hopefully this report will be a good starting point for further dialogue. I’ll be curious to read the PSC policy when the UN does release it, and see how it stacks up to reports of their behavior in-country.